American Express is as Good as Gold....Almost
Aug 29, 2006 (Updated May 27, 2009)
Review by Bryan Carey
Rated a Very Helpful Review
User Rating: Excellent
Web Site Experience:
Pros:Great benefits and personal service; No preset spending limit.
Cons:High annual fee; Higher interest than most cards
The Bottom Line: American Express Gold is a very good card, even though it does carry an annual fee exceeding $100.
Credit cards are often offered in multiple levels with a basic card at the bottom and a “premium” metal used to name the card at the higher levels. Once one credit card issuer started to use a type of metal to name its cards, the practice was adopted by many different issuers. One of the first companies to use types of precious metals to name its cards was American Express. And one of its premium cards is the American Express Gold, a credit card with clout.
Recommend this product?
Basic Facts About This Credit Card:
American Express Gold is a premium card from American Express with a long list of special benefits that members receive for an additional annual fee. Among the many benefits presently offered are:
No Pre- Set Spending Limit- There is no credit limit with this card. You can charge what you want when you want (within certain limitations).
Reward Points- Members earn points every time they use this credit card- points that can then be redeemed for travel, entertainment, etc.
Travel Benefits- Roadside assistance, car rental insurance, baggage insurance, emergency check cashing privileges, and other assistance is included in your Gold card membership.
Shopping Benefits- Insurance on new purchases, extended warranties, and fitness club benefits are among the perks offered here.
Entertainment- Premium seating for concerts and sporting events and reduced prices on other tickets are two of the entertainment options provided to members.
American Express now offers two main Gold card options: Reward Plus Gold Card and Preferred Rewards Gold Card. The Rewards Plus Gold Card carries an annual fee of $150 while the Preferred Rewards Gold Card costs $130 per year. For seniors, there is a way to save some money on these fees by signing up for the American Express Senior Gold Card. This card carries a fee of only $35 per year but is restricted to senior citizens only. There is also the American Express Fidelity Gold Card- a joint venture between American Express and Fidelity investments. This is offered to individuals who have a brokerage account with Fidelity and there is no annual fee as long as the account with Fidelity remains open and active.
American Express Gold is expected to be paid in full each month but American Express knows that most members will carry a balance. For those who do, the Rewards Plus Gold Card charges interest rates in the neighborhood of 17% to 19% annually. If payments are not mailed in a timely manner, American Express has a late fee that is computed as $30 or 2.9 percent of the balance, whichever is greater.
Customer Service with American Express is accessible either on- line or by phone. On line, the web site address is americanexpress.com. By phone, the number to dial is 800-528-4800. The on- line site makes it easy to check account activity and manage finances 24/7 and it is the recommended method for account management. But the telephone option is also good and service reps are always ready to help.
American Express Gold was one of the first premium credit cards and it is also the first premium card I ever used on a regular basis. I was lured into the world of American Express Gold many years ago as the result of a promotional offer that waived the annual fee for the first year. I found out then, as I have found out now, that American Express Gold has many special benefits that exceed most other credit cards and these benefits are worth many times more than the annual fees charged by American Express provided, of course, that you take advantage of the offers.
Special benefits are the primary reason why new customers sign up for the American Express Gold Card. Some of the benefits- like baggage insurance, ATM access, etc- are commonplace with most major credit cards nowadays. But American Express Gold offers a little bit more than the other big- name cards like Visa and Mastercard with its entertainment benefits, travel rewards, and other broad- range benefits.
I have noticed that American Express Gold continues to sweeten the pot each year with more and more benefits to keep the card competitive with other credit cards that bear an annual fee. The travel benefits is one addition and American Express probably added this one to compete with the Visa and Mastercard offers that include rewards of various types based on point accumulation from ordinary purchases. Here, American Express exceeds expectations once more with its Membership Rewards Program. The way it works is simple: Members earn one point for every dollar spent, just like they do with other reward credit cards. The points do not expire and there is no limit to the number of points that can be earned in one year. Points can then be redeemed for travel, shopping, and entertainment but American Express Gold is better than other reward cards offered by Visa and Mastercard because with American Express Gold, members have the option of transferring the reward points to their own frequent flyer or frequent hotel account, for faster accumulation of travel awards. Most Visa and Mastercard credit cards are specific to one hotel or airline and the points cannot be transferred. But American Express Gold allows points to be converted to frequent flyer miles that can be applied to any one of 21 airlines. Miles are earned at the same rate as most credit cards (1 mile per dollar spent on the card) but American Express Gold offers greater flexibility.
Like I said, American Express Gold is continuously looking for ways to stay competitive and one of the other recent sweeteners is the “Butterfly” carrying case for your American Express Gold card. This case is long and narrow, with a slot on the end to hold car keys and other accessories. By using this as a key chain, your American Express Gold card is always there, ready to be used. Your credit card is, of course, wider than the case but that doesn’t matter because the credit card is folded before it is placed inside. Leave it to American Express Gold to create a foldable credit card that can be stored in a small case that dangles from your key chain. It makes the convenience of swiping your credit card about as simple as possible.
One thing about American Express Gold that is a little misleading is the idea that there is no preset limit on spending. This is basically a truthful statement and it ranks among the many advantages of membership. But this is a little misleading because American Express Gold will revoke this privilege under certain circumstances. Based on your spending history, payment record, and personal income, American Express Gold will place some limits on usage. If you think about it, a rule like this has to be in place in order to prevent spending abuse. Many people would get hold of this card and spend like maniacs if there was no control whatsoever and they wouldn’t have the ability to pay off the balance.
Interest rates on American Express Gold are a little higher than with most Mastercard and Visa accounts and this is likely intended as a way to penalize members who don’t pay their bill in full each month. The benefits of this card are good and they easily outweigh the negatives (like paying higher interest) but one needs to ask themselves how likely they will be to use these benefits before they sign up for a card. It’s like choosing to stay at a fancy hotel vs. a basic hotel. The fancy hotel might have nice amenities but if you have no intention of using the amenities, then why would you want to spend the extra money (i.e., the higher annual fee) to stay at a fancy place? The same is true with American Express Gold. If you know you will use the perks, then the fee is worth it. Otherwise, you are better off sticking with a no- fee Mastercard or Visa.
Overall, the American Express Gold Card is a very good credit card with great benefits and great customer service that can be accesses twenty- four hours per day. It is a better card than the standard Green American Express and it makes a good choice for people who like to travel and could use the extra insurance benefits that Gold provides.
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